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More Ideas

While working on this project, we've developed numerous ideas for how our understanding of black self-publishing could be enhanced. Please take these ideas and work on them, and tell us what you create!

The wider print world

Many authors listed on our list of black self-publishers also disseminated their words through newspapers and periodicals. Work to link black authors’ interactions with print - whether through broadsides, newspaper advertisements, pamphlets, bound books, or poems printed in newspapers - would also contribute to a more nuanced understanding of black access to print and motivations for self-publishing in early America. Additionally, more research on how black self-publishing differs from or is similar to white self-publishing, in terms of motivations, genre, or frequency would enhance this project.

Collective self-publishing

Collective self-publishing by a social, religious, or political organization within the black community is also a natural extension of this project. We encountered numerous texts that were published by organizations or, for example, by “a committee of colored gentlemen.” Theorizing how self-publishing linked black communal organizations to print would be a valuable future direction for work. For example, texts published by colored conventions fall under collective self-publishing, and connecting our work to digital projects on collective publishing in the black community, such as the Colored Conventions Project, would expand scholarship of early African American print culture and the study of self-publishing in all its manifestations.

Copyright and self-publishing

Is a copyright statement in the author's name evidence of self-publishing? When and how did black authors claim copyright for their works, and how is copyright connected to publishing? For works where other copyright holders are listed, what was the arrangement between the author and the copyright holder?

The afterlives of self-published imprints

Studying the afterlives of these self-published narratives may help address questions about how popular they were, who their readers were, and how far they traveled. Mapping the travels of the authors, identifying owners listed through provenance, or mapping where narratives were advertised in newspapers would enhance understanding of how these imprints were used and traveled after their publication.

Black self-publishing in the Atlantic world

This project was bounded by works printed in North America and the Caribbean. However, we recognize the importance of theorizing about black self-publishing in the wider Atlantic world. Numerous black American authors self-published their works in England and elsewhere, and including these publications on a future list would greatly enhance the project. We also failed to search adequately for Caribbean texts; more work on self-publishing in French and other languages could expand the scope of the project past North America.

The long history of black self-publishing

While this project focused on authors born before 1851 and therefore only includes items published up to 1927, considering the long history of self-publishing in the black community would also enhance our work. Printing and self-publishing in the black radical tradition, black activism, and even the present resurgence of self-publishing could be linked to tell a richer history of self-publishing in the black community and its impact on print culture.